Difficult 2013 for women’s indoor football as players left to pick up the pieces

Sadly, the 13 in 2013 proved to be an unlucky one for women’s indoor football. While the outdoor game made tremendous strides with another successful IFAF World Championship, the MWFL celebrating its tenth anniversary and the Chicago Force being honored at Wrigley Field, the indoor game has yet to reach such heights.

With the Legends Football League having returned to the field in the US for the first time since 2011, it should have signified the beginning of a new chapter. Expansion teams in Atlanta and Omaha showed lots of promise in those markets, while Seattle enjoyed its first-ever undefeated season.

The season belonged to Chicago quarterback Heather Furr who gained MVP honors while helping the Chicago Bliss to a championship. Along with the Chicago Force winning the WFA crown, it marked the first time that a city won LFL and WFA championships in the same season.

Despite the momentum, things seemed to descend into a downward spiral. The LFL was prepared to open its second Canadian season when there had been concerns over preparation. While the coaches and league leadership agreed on reducing the schedule to two games, it caused unrest with some players, leading some players to threaten to boycott the season.

Unfortunately, the unrest led to the visceral decision of pulling the plug on the team. Compounding matters was the fact that many members of the Calgary Rage opted not to stay with the organization. Although the remaining players stayed on and continued to practice in the harsh Alberta outdoors to prepare for 2014, there was a flurry of stories in the press as to why the collapse occurred.

Compounding matters was the fact that there was truly a missed opportunity. As several members of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League had committed to Calgary either as players or trainers, it could have marked the beginning of a possible alliance. With the media attention that the Calgary franchise received, it would have been mutually beneficial for the WWCFL players that committed. It would have brought attention to a highly deserving group of athletic women in the WWCFL.

Alas this did not materialize, leaving the short-term future of the franchise in limbo. While the league proclaims that it will return with possibly six teams, what league shall take shape? For the players who were upset over the dissolution of the 2013 season, will they return to active competition or are these working relationships broken beyond repair?

The collapse of the Canadian season was an ominous sign of things to come. A group of American-based players appeared on the television program Inside Edition and discussed what they felt were safety issues. In addition, legendary quarterback Nikki Johnson also stated publicly that she believed there were changes needed for morale. As players do not have health insurance, medical costs come out of pocket. Despite her star power, Johnson was released from the league.

Suddenly, defections of players caused a plethora of talent to become available. While Johnson is planning a return to the outdoor game with the Las Vegas Showgirlz of the Women’s Football Alliance, another indoor league took root.

The WIFL held a lot of promise with the acquisition of athletes such as Tia Knipper, Maegan Larsen, Amber Wilson and Cara Vargas. With the promotion that players would be compensated for their efforts and several sponsors in place, players and fans alike had reason for optimism.

While it seemed that the WIFL would provide competition in the market and create a more equitable situation in which all indoor women’s football would improve, reality was not the case. Controversies over players having to pay at various regional tryouts were an ominous sign of things to come.

The enthusiasm and spirit displayed by so many athletes and other volunteers would end up in disappointment as the start-up quickly collapsed over other shocking revelations. The end result is that a group of promising female athletes have now become disillusioned over the mention of indoor football.

Sadly, this turn of events may lead to an outright collapse in indoor women’s football. In theory, indoor football held so much potential. For those who were not sure about the outdoor game, competing at an indoor level would provide an indication as to whether the game was for them. Considering many competitors from the WFA also played indoors, it was an opportunity to keep their skills sharpened.

Now the players are left to pick up the pieces after a storm of controversy has nearly destroyed the sport. Even if a legitimate business person or enterprise would wish to start up their own league, it is all but impossible. The negative outcome has left a bad taste in the mouth of so many. At this point, a player-run series of exhibition games (or friendlies) may keep the game alive but its potential for long-term growth has been severely stunted.


LFL champion Stephanie Psick part of the Crossfit Revolution

A three-time champion in the Legends Football League, Stephanie Noel Psick has emerged as one of the sport’s first superstars. Competing for the Los Angeles Temptation, her efforts have not only helped establish LA as the league’s first dynasty, but as one of its signature franchises.


While Psick has set hearts racing with her appearances on the pages of Muscle & Fitness and Playboy, she is more than just a pretty face. Although her participation in the Legends Football League may qualify her as a sex symbol, she is also a highly conditioned athlete that can compete under the most extreme of conditions.

Case in point, Psick is also a competitor in the world sweeping phenomenon known as Crossfit. Elite female athletes such as Christmas Abbott, the first female full-time member of a NASCAR pit crew and Emmanuelle Blais, a former member of the Canadian national women’s hockey team are among two of its more notable disciples.

Joining Psick on this remarkable journey through pushing the limits of one’s physical and mental limits is Temptation teammate Natalie Jahnke. During a typical training week, the highly energetic Psick has football practice three times a week, along with four CrossFit workouts during that same period.

With such a disciplined regimen, there is no such thing as a day off. Traditionally, her workouts consist of CrossFit WODs on Monday and Tuesday followed by football on Wednesday and Thursday. She will return to the WODs on Friday and Saturday, with another football practice closing her week on Sunday.

Defining the standards of what it takes to be a champion, this 2010 LFL All-Fantasy selection is able to life 345 pounds in the deadlift and 285 pounds in the back squat. Competing with Team 1440, she is also affiliated with CrossFit Hax. Known affectionately as Cupcakes at her training facility, at the 2013 Open, she ranked 121st.

Olivia Viney grabs state title while kicking her way into Michigan football history

With a strong soccer background, Olivia Viney would have been the last person to conceive that she would make Michigan high school football in history. No less at Detroit’s renowned Ford Field. Through the inspiration of her father, Chris, a teacher at Algonac High School and her older brother Tyler, a former field goal kicker for Marine City High School Mariners, she would become the second member of the Viney family to kick at the high school.

No stranger to Mariners athletics (she has competed for the soccer team), she spent one year on the junior varsity squad. She would earn a role as a starter on the 2013 edition of the varsity team. Playing for head coach Ron Glodich, she would connect on 54 of 58 point-after-attempts (93 percent), while setting a school record with 61 extra-points.

Viney celebrates with her jubilant teammates after the MHSAA Division Four state championship win. Photo credit: Jeffrey Smith, Times Herald (Obtained from: http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20131130/SPORTS/311300019/)
Viney celebrates with her jubilant teammates after the MHSAA Division Four state championship win. Photo credit: Jeffrey Smith, Times Herald (Obtained from: http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20131130/SPORTS/311300019/)

As one of the elite high school teams in the Macomb Area Conference contender, the 5-foot-2 kicker found her season culminate with a spot in the MHSAA Finals. Held at Ford Field, site of Super Bowl XL, Viney earned a championship ring as the Mariners prevailed by a 49-35 mark in the Division 4 State Title Game victory over Grand Rapids South Christian high.

The victory was one of redemption for the Mariners program as they had been defeated in the 2011 title game. Adding to the drama was the fact that the starting quarterback had moved from another town, and the previous season’s starter had to move to another position. It is the program’s second title since 2007.

In action as she kicks an extra point in the third quarter of the state championship game. (Photo credit: Mike Mulholland)
In action as she kicks an extra point in the third quarter of the state championship game. (Photo credit: Mike Mulholland)

Before the game even started, Viney had made history by simply becoming the first female to compete in a Michigan high school football state championship. Kicking seven extra points in the title game not only tied the MHSAA Title Record, but it earned her national recognition with a feature in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd section.

Featured on Detroit’s ABC Affiliate, WXYZ-TV. (Still obtained from: http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/olivia-viney-makes-history-at-ford-field#ixzz2nmyaGx8T)
Featured on Detroit’s ABC Affiliate, WXYZ-TV. (Still obtained from: http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/olivia-viney-makes-history-at-ford-field#ixzz2nmyaGx8T)

While her seven extra points also broke a new school record for the Mariners, it was the first extra point that may have had the most meaning. Having logged said point in the second quarter of the contest, it marked the first time that a female football player contributed a point in the history of the event.

Provisional IOC recognition a landmark moment for women’s football

A December 10 announcement from the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee has granted the International Federation of American Football with provisional IOC recognition. With a governing body of 64 nations on six continents, this is a landmark moment for the game and the advancement of women’s football.

The IOC Sports Director, Christophe Dubi, noted how the IFAF has worked towards developing youth appeal while helping the sport grow around the world. Despite the recognition, the next steps will determine how the sport is contested.

Of note, the IFAF is responsible for tackle, flag and beach volleyball. While the sport will likely be featured as a demonstration sport before it becomes a medal sport, it is hard to determine what kind of football shall be contested. As injuries are a significant factor of tackle football, the concept of flag football may seem more practical.

While it is unsure if the sport shall be contested in the Winter or Summer Games, the thought of it being a demonstration sport by the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games is very real. With it is the opportunity for female football players to compete on one of the biggest sporting stages in the world.

Just like the inclusion of women’s ice hockey at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, it is exciting to see women’s football (whether it be tackle or flag) proudly follow. The only point of concern is how competitive the various nations might be. Since women’s hockey has been part of the Winter Games, Canada has competed in every gold medal game, while the United States have played for the gold three out of four times.

The last two IFAF Women’s World (tackle football) championships featured Canada and the United States in the gold medal game. The thought of these two nations dominating in football for multiple generations is a strong possibility. Giving equal consideration to men’s football and the strong presence of the United States, a lack of parity may hinder the sport.

Although there are many more obstacles to overcome before medals are put around the necks of female football players, its inclusion is a remarkable milestone worth celebrating. The hard work of the pioneers of women’s football over the last decade is reaching fruition and with it, motivation and a renewed sense of energy to keep breaking barriers and inspiring the next generation of women to grace the gridiron.

MWFL looks to ride strong momentum of anniversary season into 2014

With the Maritime Women’s Football League having held its Annual General Meeting on November 30, 2013, the theme of growth was prevalent. As the first Canadian women’s football league to reach the magical ten year milestone, the meeting put forth into place the elements required to propel its ambitions.

Several decisions were made in order to bring about an element of preparation while laying the foundation for strong direction. Of note, a key initiative also involved clarity. The revision of the league’s constitution and by-laws in order to better reflect its growth passed unanimously.

Also part of the agenda was a motion to advance the schedule to an earlier time in the year. Voted in unanimously, opening day for the 2014 season shall be held on April 26, 2014. Postseason play, including the Friendship Bowl and the SupHer Bowl will both be held on June 21, 2014. Compared to 2013, the postseason shall finish before Canada Day.

Plans to implement a jamboree were also passed unanimously. It was announced that the first one is planned to be held from May 17-19, 2014 in the province of Quebec. The league will be partnering with a fairly new women’s team; les Pirates sur Richelieu. Considering the number of French speaking players from the MWFL, a jamboree would help with networking while strengthening bonds with other football playing regions in the country.

In addition, a jamboree would also be held a week after postseason play. The period of June 28-30, 2014 would see the league hold a second jamboree in New Brunswick. Considering the number of MWFL players that give back to the community as coaches, such an event would be a terrific way for young female football players to end their school year.

The planning committee for these events shall feature the four team representatives. With the approval to take on their roles for the 2014 season at the meeting, each franchise features several women that have been key members of the league over the last few seasons. It is a key leadership role that ensures players have a stake in the league’s plans.

Lisa Harlow, the President of Football New Brunswick, shall be representing the Saint John Storm in 2014. Having been a key member of the Halifax Xplosion, Tasha McMaster adds the portfolio of team representative to her remarkable role with the organization.

The Moncton Vipers feature Mel Legere as their representative for 2014. The defending champion Capital Area Lady Gladiators will benefit from Kristen (Shot) Chatterton as their representative. Of note, she was also on the Canadian national team that claimed silver at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Such leadership in place ensures that experience is a key factor in the leadership for the upcoming campaign.

Elections for the executive portion of leadership were also part of the meeting. Cheryl O’Leary, a player with the Lady Glads and a mentor coach for Team Canada 2013 succeeds Hannah Hamilton as league president. Hamilton stays on in a vice-presidential capacity. Tina Theriault supplants Saint John competitor Trina Graves as treasurer for 2014.

Amy Salter is another new face on the executive committee. With Moncton quarterback Jenny Miller having served in the Communications post for 2013, Salter assumes that portfolio. Holly Arthur of the Halifax Xplosion retains her position as league secretary.

As the league prepares for its eleventh season in 2014, the AGM is an extension of the league’s commitment towards growth. A strong communication tool, it is a step in the right direction as the league looks toward another decade even stronger than the previous.